Weekend with Vanny

Lately, I’ve been spending my weekends on the road: driving to DC for work, driving to visit family. I don’t mind the hours spent in the car when I’m with Bret. We talk a lot and listen to podcasts and stop for meals at Sheetz and Bojangles. It’s fun!

…But the solo trips can feel long and draining. I recently admitted that maybe I’m stretching myself too thin and pushing my own travel boundaries. If you look at the last two months, I’ve spent WAY MORE weekends on the road than not. And I’m not talking about two hour road trips. I mean, waking up before dawn and spending up to 75% of my waking hours in a car. Maybe I need to practice saying no. Maybe I’m trying to do too much. I’ll reassess that after my next trip to DC later this week, but for now, I wanted to share our craziest recent trip: An 18 hour round-trip drive completed in a giant cargo van in under 36 hours!

Meet Vanny:


Vanny is the name we gave to this giant cargo van that we rented to drive up to Bret’s childhood home. Bret’s parents recently moved to Florida, and they left a lawn mower, a dresser, a bread machine, a snow shovel, and pretty much all of Bret’s childhood things for us up in Pennsylvania. We thought about renting a Pod or moving truck, but this was the most economical option. And, by far, the most entertaining. Also, this option allowed Bret to get another slice or ten of his all-time-favorite pizza.

Bret’s parents had lovingly boxed up all of Bret’s books and childhood toys so all we had to do was load it up in the van. We knew we needed a lot of room, so we rented the biggest van we could find:

Vanny_2  Vanny_Interior

On Saturday, we woke up at 4AM, and hit the road. This was the view pulling out of our driveway:


Drive_0Vanny’s windshield was huge. I mean, HUGE. And unlike a normal vehicle, you couldn’t see the nose of the car because it was almost completely flat, so I kept saying I felt like I was riding along in a hovercraft being propelled by air instead of wheels.

It was such an odd sensation. I tried to capture the feeling of floating over the road with these photos, but it’s something you just have to experience, I think.

Driving in the tallest vehicle means you can always see the road in front of you and pretty much everyone gives you plenty of space on the road. It kind of went to Bret’s head. He was talking about buying a pick-up truck!


Our trip was mostly interstate driving, but due to a road closure, we had to take a detour through a small town sandwiched between highways and it was kind of magical.


I don’t know how to explain it. I don’t know how to explain anything from this trip, apparently. We were maybe sleep deprived and definitely sick of the monotonous highway but this detour sparked something inside me. I suddenly felt so awake and alive and grateful for this random weekend adventure.


Vanny didn’t get great gas mileage so we had to stop for gas every couple hours.

What can ya do?

We passed about a hundred Sheetz (a luxury we don’t have in Boone) so we made a point to gas up exclusively at Sheetz. This way, we could grab a coffee or a made-to-order breakfast sandwich for the road.

I usually don’t let Bret eat messy food in our car because I love our car and I’m paranoid about crumbs, but with Vanny? Anything goes. Egg biscuit? Pretzles and hummus? A crumbly cookie?  Road food.

We drove through North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland. When we made it to PA, our first stop was for pizza at Bret’s all-time FAVORITE pizza place! We met some of extended family members and enjoyed perfectly cheesy slices of deliciousness. It was so wonderful to see familiar faces and catch up with long-distance family who we usually only get to see once or twice a year. It was a sad realization that we won’t be up for Christmas this year, but we assured them we’d be back to visit. I may have promised Bret an annual pizza from this place for the rest of his life… here’s hoping that works out!

We enjoyed the family time and then we bought two additional pizzas “to go” so we would have something to share with Bret’s kind friends who were coming over to help us load the van:


I know what you’re thinking. I look GREAT for waking up at 4AM, driving 9+ hours, and moving boxes. Thank you!

Oh did I mention Bret was on crutches? Bret was on crutches. Which means I did a LOT of box lifting and I was feeling EXTRA grateful for his sweet friends who did most of the loading when my arms felt like jell-o. This is what I moved by myself before his friends arrived:


That’s maybe half of our load? I didn’t get a picture of the full van loaded up, sadly, but man… it was full! After everything was loaded up, we visited with friends, I played Star Wars vs Star Trek space ships on rolling chairs with an eight-year-old, and then we said goodbye.

We spent the night on an air mattress in an empty house in the middle of the woods. It was weird, and kind of sad because it was officially Bret’s last night sleeping in his childhood home.

On our way out in the morning, I spotted this:


How could I leave this sweet little star magic wand from the North Pole? Apparently, Bret really wanted when he was a little kid. I just couldn’t leave it behind, so now it will be part of our Christmas decorations.

Me Driving VannyWe left early in the morning and then we drove, drove, drove the long 9+ hour drive back to Boone. This picture is deceiving because Bret did most of the driving, but I drove Vanny, too!

You’d think we’d be sick of each other and the road by this point, but I think we drove for 5 hours before we even turned on the radio. We just talked!

And then, when we made it back to Boone, I was exhausted. We had to unload the van, so I suggested that we make two piles: “house” and “basement”, and then leave the rest for morning. We did that:


(For context, our garage is usually completely empty except for our car). But then, Bret convinced me to move the basement half to the basement. We managed that and were still holding up okay, so then, we moved the house half into our living room and kitchen.

I was so sleepy! But so happy that we could pull Sparky (our real car) back into the garage. In the morning before work, we returned Vanny to the local Enterprise, and that was that.

And now, a week later, if you visited our house, you’d probably think it looks like we just moved in again. Whatever. I don’t even care. Bret promised me he’d unpack a box a night and so far I’ve really enjoyed looking through his childhood books and school projects.

I hope that’s our last weekend driving a 18-hour road trip for a while, but all in all, it couldn’t have been any better. The weather was good, we barely hit any traffic, and mission “bring back Bret’s stuff” was accomplished successfully!

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